Report Cards for June 2010

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NEWS FROM FRANCE…

Bienvenue Hotel (110/112 avenue de Brachaud, 87280 Limoges, France; phone 05 55 37 14 33, www.bienvenue-hotel.com) — north of Limoges, just off the A20.

Opened in fall of 2007. Owners were employed by a European hotel chain for many years and designed this two-star hotel with the customer in mind. Elevator from entry level to all upper floors. Restaurant attached. Secure parking.

Small but extremely functional rooms. Window can be left open safely. Small but useful closet with room safe. Desk and chair. WiFi, TV and phone. €75 (near $99) per night for two people during week; less on weekends. Breakfast, €7.50. (April 14, 2010)

— Nylah Chilton, McMinnville, OR

NEWS FROM MEXICO…

For our RCI cruise stop in Costa Maya, we booked an exceptional day tour with a private company, The Native Choice (HQ in Chacchoben. Mailing address: Privada Santa Cecilia #1257, Reg. 218 Mz-37 L-3, Cancun, Q. Roo, 77510 Mexico; phone +52 [998] 869 3346, http://thenativechoice.com).

We wanted an off-the-beaten-track cultural tour and found it with their “Mayan Experience Tour,” at $70 each for an all-day adventure. Only 12 of us traveled in a minivan exploring the ruins of Chacchoben with no one else around. Then we visited a Mayan home, with an introduction to Mayan cooking methods, a traditional meal and even a Mayan dance.

Our Mayan guide, Ivan Cohuo, is the son of the man who rediscovered Chacchoben. How cool is that! We would return in a heartbeat.

P.S. I am 75 years young, and I climbed everything and ate everything. (March 22, 2010)

— Francine Atkins, St. Petersburg, FL

NEWS FROM THE NETHERLANDS…

Restaurant Blauw (Amstelveen­seweg 158-160, 1075 xn, Amsterdam; phone [020] 67 55 000, www.restaurantblauw.nl) — near Vondelpark in southwest Amsterdam.

Excellent Indonesian food in a lovely setting. We split the rijsttafel (rice table with meat and vegetables); one serving was the perfect amount for two people. Seafood or vegetarian rijsttafel also available.

The food was moderately spicy (they adjusted it to our tastes), delicious and beautifully served.

€39 ($52) included rijsttafel for one person (€29) plus €10 to split the meal. (March 26, 2010)

— Nylah Chilton, McMinnville, OR

NEWS FROM ITALY…

Al Panfilo Trattoria Pizzeria (Via delle Aleutine, 94 96, Ostia; phone 065 697200) — near Rome airport.

Clean and well lit. The aromas from the kitchen were yummy. Food wonderful! Many things to choose from. Thin-crust pizza with broccoli rabe plus mixed salad and mineral water, €13.50 (near $18) for two on Feb. 28, 2010. Waiter spoke some English.

Grand Hotel Cesare Augusto (Viale degli Aranci 108, 80067 Sorrento (NA); phone 081 8782700, www.hotelcesareaugusto.com/eng) — near Old Town and in walking distance of port.

Very clean. Staff pleasant and helpful, and front desk people spoke English.

Our room was big, with a separate sitting area and a balcony. Hotel’s website lists €170 ($225) per night, low season, for a double room and €200 ($264), high season. Breakfast included.

(We stayed here March 1-4 on Grand Circle Travel’s “52nd Anniversary Tour” in Italy, Feb. 27-March 12, 2010. We began in Ostia, moved to Sorrento and then spent seven nights in Rome.)

• At ticket booth at port of Sorrento, bought tickets for car ferry, Sorrento-Naples, at €11 ($15) each, one way, on March 2. Trip takes 40 minutes across Bay of Naples and runs four times a day. The day we went it was a bit rough, especially on the way back. Nice and clean, though, with plenty of seating.

Mediterraneo Hotel (Via Cavour 15, Rome) — outstanding location, an easy walk from the bus/train station; metro stops nearby. Half-hour walk from Colisseum.

Staff very nice, helpful. Normal room (€165, or $218) — nothing to get excited about, but it was clean and quiet (March 5-12).

Breakfast offered many choices: meats, cheeses, eggs, pastries, breads, cereals, yogurts, fruits and juices. The coffee, however, was consistently the most horrible coffee in the entire world!

• I bought cappuccino at Raffaello (Piazza della Minerva, 78, 00186 Rome; e-mail raffaellosaporiditalia @yahoo.it), an attractive shop dealing in gourmet foods of Italy, with a coffee bar serving espressos, cappuccinos, lattes, hot cocoa, tea and more.

The packaged foods include sausages, cheeses, pastas, jams, relishes, breadstuffs, candies, wines and liqueurs — really a wonderful selection. Prices for these things are higher than at a grocery store. Worth it, though, for the experience and packaging. (March 9)

Ondablu Lavanderia Self Service (Via Principe Amedeo, 70/b, Rome; phone 06/4744647) — a nice, clean laundry, with well-maintained machines and an attendant on site all the time. And you can check your e-mail while your clothes are churning! There are two booths, each with two computers.

I did laundry for €3.50 wash and €3.50 dry and used the Internet for €0.50/quarter hour, €1/half hour and €2/hour (March 6-12). Open 8 a.m.-10 p.m. seven days a week.

— Florence Drake, Readfield, ME

News from NETHERLANDS ANTILLES…

We highly recommend Atlantis Apartments in Willemstad (Driel­straat 6-8, Willemstad, Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles; phone [5999] 465 8288, www.atlantisapartments.net).

Our 10-day stay, Feb. 23-March 5, 2010, was enhanced by the pleasant, quiet surroundings and excellent location. Minibuses stop a block away ($1 to city center). Supermarket around corner. The engaging Seaquarium and fashionable Mambo Beach are within walking distance.

The view from each apartment is hard to beat — the Caribbean, with Venezuela 42 miles straight ahead. Best of all is the swimming. Though there is no beach, a large, clean and private swimming area formed by coral rock jetties is in front of the apartments.

The eight apartments, each with its own balcony or patio, are operated in conjunction with an adjoining dive school. Bedroom, bath, kitchen and sitting area kept very clean by daily service.

In high season, a one-bedroom costs $112 per night and a two-bedroom, $163. We booked online with a credit card in advance (a 3% transaction fee was charged on the total).

Management and staff were friendly and helpful. It’s a great place to stay.

— Joan & Bob Klussmann, Lexington, VA

NEWS FROM TANZANIA…

Took trip to Tanzania, Jan. 1-Feb. 20, 2010.

Mid Town Hotel in Lushoto — located up the hill from bus station.

Small veranda in front, on main road. Clean rooms. $15, breakfast included. Lots of windows — all light. Mosquito net. Room No. 5 had a very clean Western toilet.

Nice people. Local owner. Staff security. Highly recommend.

Malindi Pub in Moshi; just ask any taxi driver. Good, very large pub. Clean, not crazy. Huge, huge flat-screen TV. Beers TZS2,000 ($1.45) each.

Annex Hotel Arusha by Night (phone 0713 485 237) — on Colonel Middleton Road, with entrance on Stadium Street, in Arusha.

Big room a good value at TZS16,000 ($11.64). Big windows, big double bed, blankets, mosquito nets, TV. Inside toilet, separate shower, two towels, two soaps and toilet paper. Electricity shut off in evenings.

Mikadi Beach Lodge (P.O. Box 36369, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; phone +255 [0] 7543 70269 or 7591 77393, www.mikadibeach.com).

Individual bandas (Maasai-type thatched huts) on South Beach. Clean. Fan in room. Good showers and Western toilet. TZS25,000 ($18).

Pool. Good staff. Laundry done cheap. Great restaurant (prices TZS4,000-8,000, or $3-$6), but drinks expensive.

• Antonio Hotel (P.O. Box 6084, 0756-259954 Mwanza, Tanzania; +028 2560505) — on Kirumba Street near football stadium.

Clean. Good fan. Big beds. Single room with bath outside, TZS12,000 ($9); single with bath, TZS15,000 ($11), and a double, TZS20,000.

Secure, self-contained parking. Restaurant. Well recommended.

Big disco nearby, but you can’t hear the music nearby at night.

— Janice Flaherty, Bridgewater, MA

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NEWS FROM FRANCE…

Bienvenue Hotel (110/112 avenue de Brachaud, 87280 Limoges, France; phone 05 55 37 14 33, www.bienvenue-hotel.com) — north of Limoges, just off the A20.

Opened in fall of 2007. Owners were employed by a European hotel chain for many years and designed this two-star hotel with the customer in mind. Elevator from entry level to all upper floors. Restaurant attached. Secure parking.

Small but extremely functional rooms. Window can be left open safely. Small but useful closet with room safe. Desk and chair. WiFi, TV and phone. €75 (near $99) per night for two people during week; less on weekends. Breakfast, €7.50. (April 14, 2010)

— Nylah Chilton, McMinnville, OR

NEWS FROM MEXICO…

For our RCI cruise stop in Costa Maya, we booked an exceptional day tour with a private company, The Native Choice (HQ in Chacchoben. Mailing address: Privada Santa Cecilia #1257, Reg. 218 Mz-37 L-3, Cancun, Q. Roo, 77510 Mexico; phone +52 [998] 869 3346, http://thenativechoice.com).

We wanted an off-the-beaten-track cultural tour and found it with their “Mayan Experience Tour,” at $70 each for an all-day adventure. Only 12 of us traveled in a minivan exploring the ruins of Chacchoben with no one else around. Then we visited a Mayan home, with an introduction to Mayan cooking methods, a traditional meal and even a Mayan dance.

Our Mayan guide, Ivan Cohuo, is the son of the man who rediscovered Chacchoben. How cool is that! We would return in a heartbeat.

P.S. I am 75 years young, and I climbed everything and ate everything. (March 22, 2010)

— Francine Atkins, St. Petersburg, FL

NEWS FROM THE NETHERLANDS…

Restaurant Blauw (Amstelveen­seweg 158-160, 1075 xn, Amsterdam; phone [020] 67 55 000, www.restaurantblauw.nl) — near Vondelpark in southwest Amsterdam.

Excellent Indonesian food in a lovely setting. We split the rijsttafel (rice table with meat and vegetables); one serving was the perfect amount for two people. Seafood or vegetarian rijsttafel also available.

The food was moderately spicy (they adjusted it to our tastes), delicious and beautifully served.

€39 ($52) included rijsttafel for one person (€29) plus €10 to split the meal. (March 26, 2010)

— Nylah Chilton, McMinnville, OR

NEWS FROM ITALY…

Al Panfilo Trattoria Pizzeria (Via delle Aleutine, 94 96, Ostia; phone 065 697200) — near Rome airport.

Clean and well lit. The aromas from the kitchen were yummy. Food wonderful! Many things to choose from. Thin-crust pizza with broccoli rabe plus mixed salad and mineral water, €13.50 (near $18) for two on Feb. 28, 2010. Waiter spoke some English.

Grand Hotel Cesare Augusto (Viale degli Aranci 108, 80067 Sorrento (NA); phone 081 8782700, www.hotelcesareaugusto.com/eng) — near Old Town and in walking distance of port.

Very clean. Staff pleasant and helpful, and front desk people spoke English.

Our room was big, with a separate sitting area and a balcony. Hotel’s website lists €170 ($225) per night, low season, for a double room and €200 ($264), high season. Breakfast included.

(We stayed here March 1-4 on Grand Circle Travel’s “52nd Anniversary Tour” in Italy, Feb. 27-March 12, 2010. We began in Ostia, moved to Sorrento and then spent seven nights in Rome.)

• At ticket booth at port of Sorrento, bought tickets for car ferry, Sorrento-Naples, at €11 ($15) each, one way, on March 2. Trip takes 40 minutes across Bay of Naples and runs four times a day. The day we went it was a bit rough, especially on the way back. Nice and clean, though, with plenty of seating.

Mediterraneo Hotel (Via Cavour 15, Rome) — outstanding location, an easy walk from the bus/train station; metro stops nearby. Half-hour walk from Colisseum.

Staff very nice, helpful. Normal room (€165, or $218) — nothing to get excited about, but it was clean and quiet (March 5-12).

Breakfast offered many choices: meats, cheeses, eggs, pastries, breads, cereals, yogurts, fruits and juices. The coffee, however, was consistently the most horrible coffee in the entire world!

• I bought cappuccino at Raffaello (Piazza della Minerva, 78, 00186 Rome; e-mail raffaellosaporiditalia @yahoo.it), an attractive shop dealing in gourmet foods of Italy, with a coffee bar serving espressos, cappuccinos, lattes, hot cocoa, tea and more.

The packaged foods include sausages, cheeses, pastas, jams, relishes, breadstuffs, candies, wines and liqueurs — really a wonderful selection. Prices for these things are higher than at a grocery store. Worth it, though, for the experience and packaging. (March 9)

Ondablu Lavanderia Self Service (Via Principe Amedeo, 70/b, Rome; phone 06/4744647) — a nice, clean laundry, with well-maintained machines and an attendant on site all the time. And you can check your e-mail while your clothes are churning! There are two booths, each with two computers.

I did laundry for €3.50 wash and €3.50 dry and used the Internet for €0.50/quarter hour, €1/half hour and €2/hour (March 6-12). Open 8 a.m.-10 p.m. seven days a week.

— Florence Drake, Readfield, ME

News from NETHERLANDS ANTILLES…

We highly recommend Atlantis Apartments in Willemstad (Driel­straat 6-8, Willemstad, Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles; phone [5999] 465 8288, www.atlantisapartments.net).

Our 10-day stay, Feb. 23-March 5, 2010, was enhanced by the pleasant, quiet surroundings and excellent location. Minibuses stop a block away ($1 to city center). Supermarket around corner. The engaging Seaquarium and fashionable Mambo Beach are within walking distance.

The view from each apartment is hard to beat — the Caribbean, with Venezuela 42 miles straight ahead. Best of all is the swimming. Though there is no beach, a large, clean and private swimming area formed by coral rock jetties is in front of the apartments.

The eight apartments, each with its own balcony or patio, are operated in conjunction with an adjoining dive school. Bedroom, bath, kitchen and sitting area kept very clean by daily service.

In high season, a one-bedroom costs $112 per night and a two-bedroom, $163. We booked online with a credit card in advance (a 3% transaction fee was charged on the total).

Management and staff were friendly and helpful. It’s a great place to stay.

— Joan & Bob Klussmann, Lexington, VA

NEWS FROM TANZANIA…

Took trip to Tanzania, Jan. 1-Feb. 20, 2010.

Mid Town Hotel in Lushoto — located up the hill from bus station.

Small veranda in front, on main road. Clean rooms. $15, breakfast included. Lots of windows — all light. Mosquito net. Room No. 5 had a very clean Western toilet.

Nice people. Local owner. Staff security. Highly recommend.

Malindi Pub in Moshi; just ask any taxi driver. Good, very large pub. Clean, not crazy. Huge, huge flat-screen TV. Beers TZS2,000 ($1.45) each.

Annex Hotel Arusha by Night (phone 0713 485 237) — on Colonel Middleton Road, with entrance on Stadium Street, in Arusha.

Big room a good value at TZS16,000 ($11.64). Big windows, big double bed, blankets, mosquito nets, TV. Inside toilet, separate shower, two towels, two soaps and toilet paper. Electricity shut off in evenings.

Mikadi Beach Lodge (P.O. Box 36369, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; phone +255 [0] 7543 70269 or 7591 77393, www.mikadibeach.com).

Individual bandas (Maasai-type thatched huts) on South Beach. Clean. Fan in room. Good showers and Western toilet. TZS25,000 ($18).

Pool. Good staff. Laundry done cheap. Great restaurant (prices TZS4,000-8,000, or $3-$6), but drinks expensive.

• Antonio Hotel (P.O. Box 6084, 0756-259954 Mwanza, Tanzania; +028 2560505) — on Kirumba Street near football stadium.

Clean. Good fan. Big beds. Single room with bath outside, TZS12,000 ($9); single with bath, TZS15,000 ($11), and a double, TZS20,000.

Secure, self-contained parking. Restaurant. Well recommended.

Big disco nearby, but you can’t hear the music nearby at night.

— Janice Flaherty, Bridgewater, MA